Sunday, February 3, 2008

Why I Write

Albert Bates
I have been quiet this past month or more, not because I had nothing to say, but because I could not bring myself to say it. I have been humbled by the power of the vision. I needed time to absorb it. I needed time to re-assess my role, my purpose, my path through life.

Much creative writing, and particularly blogging, is a Narcissistic pursuit. The author has to have enough ego-centrism to assume that someone would be interested in reading their musings, and then to write in an engaging style, as the font of some higher wisdom to the masses. Different writers assume different postures, and some even acknowledge their personal limits or private gratifications, occasionally dropping their authoritative posture to do so.

This is even truer of public speaking. The shy and introverted, myself included, have to really screw up an inordinate amount of courage to step, naked, in front of a room or auditorium or field full of complete strangers, or worse, before thousands of such unseen rooms within the vast reach of modern broadcast media.

For me, I came to creative writing as a way of venting frustration from the technical writing I was doing as an appellate attorney. Faced with having to raise money through donations in order to be allowed to pursue impossibly complex and hopeless but poignantly worthy cases through the often corrupt and tin-ear’ed courts, I penned a quarterly newsletter, Natural Rights, for more than a decade, in the process creating a style that was emotional, occasionally humorous, and then profound, in order to inspire readers to reach for their wallets and return the enclosed postage-prepaid envelope with a small donation. From tens of thousands of 2-, 5- and 10-dollar donations, and the occasional sugar daddy, a rugged caseload of impossible causes was maintained. Occasionally, we won one, and that kept the game in play.

My anointment as Johnny Ecovillageseed by the formative Global Ecovillage Network in the early 1990s stole me from my Quixotic legal career and placed my writing talents at the disposal of a movement ambitiously intending to alter the lifestyles of the masses and thereby the trajectory of planetary destruction.

For someone who had been fighting against planetary destruction at the retail level — nuclear power and weapons, toxic wastes, cultural, generational and species imperialism — a promotion upstairs to direct the wholesale approach seemed logical. As a type-A personality with high blood-pressure, I also welcomed the opportunity to change my work to something less combative on a day-to-day basis. I was tired of getting up in the morning to go fight bad guys. I had nicknamed my hand-stitched denim three-piece suit the “torero traje de luces” — suit of lights. I needed a break from the bull.

So, I became an environmental educator. That became my soapbox. I climb up on it with something to say, tap the microphone, and begin speaking. Presumptively the audience is here not because of me or my stuff — how I look, how I live, how I speak — but to learn what I am about to teach; they are interested in the subject, and I provide an accessible, perhaps even entertaining, opportunity to gather that particular knowledge.

The Narcissism is necessary, but the message is the thing.

And that has ended my silence once more, and brought me back here to speak. Today is the 101st anniversary of my father’s birth, so, for me, it is an auspicious day — a power day.

In the coming days we'll unleash some thoughts I've been having. We'll see where they lead.


Anonymous said...

Hey Albert, Geoff Trowbridge here, in case you're wondering if anybody reads your blog or cares about what you write- count me as one! All of your entries are very good, some of the most thorough and erudite of the various blogs I've read. I especially liked your description of your evolution from a 'reactive' activist to a 'proactive' activist, a transition I've undergone myself in the past several years. Anyhow, keep up the good writing, I think it is making a dent in the vast sea of blogs in civilization's largest and most schockingly participatory Democracy- the Internet.
And if you don't regularly read Sharon Astyk's blog, Causabon's Book, you should- it's in the top echelon of the blogosphere, along with yours.

Zabetha said...

Hi Albert, glad to see you're writing again, but some of your comments about the motivations of bloggers or creative writers are a little breath-taking. Ego-centric? Narcissistic? Could we not say the same of any artistic or expressive endeavour? And in the vast scheme of things, this is a bad thing? If you look at the stats, most bloggers are not even close to thinking they are some kind of font of higher wisdom! I think you're drawing conclusions based on the few blogs that get to the top of the heap in popularity. Maybe it takes narcissism and ego-centrism to get there, I don't know, but statistically they are not the norm.

But good you're writing for us again, no matter what your motivation.




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